Nightswimming

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This article is about the R.E.M. song. For the Awake episode, see Nightswimming (Awake).
"Nightswimming"
Single by R.E.M.
from the album Automatic for the People
B-side "Losing My Religion" (Live)
Released July 15, 1993 (UK)
Format CD single, 7" single, 12" single
Recorded 1992
Genre Alternative rock
Length 4:16
Label Warner Bros.
Producer(s) Scott Litt & R.E.M.
R.E.M. singles chronology
"Everybody Hurts"
(1993)
"Nightswimming"
(1993)
"Find the River"
(1993)

"Nightswimming" is a song by the American alternative rock band R.E.M. It was released in 1993 as the fifth single from the group's eighth album Automatic for the People (1992). "Nightswimming" is a ballad featuring singer Michael Stipe accompanied only by bassist Mike Mills on piano, a string arrangement by former Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones, and a prominent oboe by Deborah Workman in the latter part of the piece. Stipe sings about a group of friends who go skinny dipping at night, which draws from similar experiences in the band's early days.

Background and recording[edit]

Bassist Mike Mills recalled he was playing a piano riff at John Keane's studio in the band's hometown of Athens, Georgia. While Mills almost discarded the melody, it attracted the interest of singer Michael Stipe. Mills said, "I never thought it would amount to much because it was just a circular thing that kept going round and round and round. But it inspired Michael."[1] While the song was not included on Out of Time, the demo recorded during those sessions was used for Automatic for the People, with a string arrangement by John Paul Jones added to the track.[2] Mills has also claimed he recorded the piano part at Criteria Studios in Miami, on the same piano used by Derek and the Dominos on the recording of "Layla".[3]

Composition and lyrics[edit]

"Nightswimming" was performed solely by Michael Stipe and Mike Mills; Stipe sings while Mills plays the piano. R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck noted that the absence of drummer Bill Berry and himself from the song was typical of many tracks on Automatic for the People, where one or more bandmembers would not appear on a given song.[4] Mills plays a piano motif he has referred to as "circular" in nature.[1]

The inspiration for the song has been debated by the band members. Stipe, in a 2013 Esquire article, clarified the true origin of the song. "A few years ago, I wanted to write a song about night watchmen, so I hired one to guard the R.E.M. offices in Athens. I bought him a uniform and a flashlight and everything. He turned out to be kind of crazy and called me up in the middle of the night to tell me dirty stories about the Kennedys. I wrote the song about him, but he was so paranoid he said he was going to sue me, so I changed the lyric from 'Night watchman' to 'Nightswimming.'"[5]

Conversely in the past Mill's said, "It's based on true events", explaining that in the early 1980s R.E.M. and its circle of friends would go skinny dipping after the Athens clubs closed at night. "We'd go to parties, we'd go to the clubs and we'd go to the Ball Pump, and there would be any number of these same 50 people, so it was a very tight circle of friends."[1] Peter Buck holds a similar interpretation. However, Stipe has denied that that is the topic of the song; rather, Stipe says the song is about a "kind of an innocence that's either kind of desperately clung onto or obviously lost." Stipe said there are autobiographical elements to the song, but insists most of it is "made up." [6]

Reception[edit]

"Nightswimming" was released as a single in July 1993. The record reached number 27 in the United Kingdom and number 71 in Australia.[7]

Cover versions[edit]

A cover of the song by Dashboard Confessional is featured on disc two of their album A Mark, A Mission, A Brand, A Scar.[8]

Another cover of the song by British-alternative group Gene is featured as a B-side to their 1997 single "Where Are They Now?".[9]

The song was performed by Coldplay with Michael Stipe on their Austin City Limits performance. During the show, Chris Martin called "Nightswimming" "the best song ever written."[10]

Ingrid Michaelson created a cover based around using a looper pedal for a charity event at Carnegie Hall.[11]

The song was performed by Sugarland on their 2009 live album Live on the Inside.

Track listing[edit]

All songs written by Bill Berry, Peter Buck, Mike Mills and Michael Stipe.

7" Single[edit]

  1. "Nightswimming" – 4:16
  2. "Losing My Religion" (acoustic live) – 4:55

12" and CD Maxi-Single[edit]

  1. "Nightswimming" – 4:16
  2. "World Leader Pretend" (acoustic live) – 5:16
  3. "Belong" (acoustic live) – 4:40
  4. "Low" (acoustic live) – 4:59

(All four acoustic live b-sides recorded live in Charleston, April 28, 1991 for the Mountain Stage radio program. "Belong" and "Low" both taken from the album Out of Time)

References[edit]

  • Black, Johnny. Reveal: The Story of R.E.M. Backbeat Books, 2004. ISBN 0-87930-776-5
  • Buckley, David. R.E.M.: Fiction: An Alternative Biography. Virgin, 2002. ISBN 1-85227-927-3
  • Platt, John (editor). The R.E.M. Companion: Two Decades of Commentary. Schirmer, 1998. ISBN 0-02-864935-4

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Buckley, p. 226
  2. ^ Fricke, David. "Living Up to Out of Time/Remote Control: Parts I and II". Melody Maker. October 3, 1992.
  3. ^ Black, p. 192
  4. ^ Cavanagh, David. "Tune in, cheer up, rock out". Q. October 1994.
  5. ^ "Michael Stipe Has Great Hair". Esquire. 2013-01-04. Retrieved 2014-08-25. 
  6. ^ Black, p. 193
  7. ^ Buckley, p. 358
  8. ^ "Dashboard Confessional : A Mark, A Mission, A Brand, A Scar (2004 Bonus DVD) - Listen, Review and Buy at ARTISTdirect". Artistdirect.com. Retrieved 2014-06-15. 
  9. ^ allmusic ((( Where Are They Now? [#1] > Overview )))
  10. ^ "Coldplay On Austin City Limits On Jambase". Jambase.com. Retrieved 2014-06-15. 
  11. ^ Video on YouTube

External links[edit]